What does it mean to support equity, diversity and inclusion? In the latest Vital Victoria podcast from the Victoria Foundation, host Lucky Budd welcomes Silvia Mangue Alene, president of the BC Black History Awareness Society, to delve beyond the “what” of that question, to explore why it’s important and how we can approach it.
In addition to her role with the society, Alene works at the City of Victoria’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office, and is co-founder and president of Kulea Culture Society. As the community commemorates Black History Month, the two explore Black history and fostering diversity and inclusion in Greater Victoria, talking about Alene’s journey to Victoria, from being born in Africa to growing up in Spain before coming to Canada.
Growing up as the only Black child in her neighbourhood, “when you’re a child it’s fine, you don’t notice anything, but when you start becoming a teenager and become a young adult and you see that your friends are getting stuff that you should be getting too, and you’re not there, you start realizing the cancer of racism,” Alene says.
“There was a time that I didn’t like who I was, I didn’t like my Blackness, I didn’t like being Black because there was nothing that was telling me the opposite, there was nothing reinforcing the opposite – that the colour of your skin doesn’t define who you are.”
Arriving in Canada, Alene began volunteering with the BC Black History Awareness Society and learning about the history of Black people in Canada, “and then I started to learn about the importance of being Black and the importance of who I was as a Black woman,” Alene reflects.
The society works to share the history of Black pioneers, and collaborate with other organizations with complementary goals. “Education is important – it is important that we learn about the history of our country so that we can make sense of the present,” she says.
How do we use that knowledge to help build a more inclusive community?
As humans and as a community, “we have to really believe that diversity brings richness to our community,” Alene says.
“In anything we do…we have to look around and see who is missing at our table, what can we do better, how can we grow better and how can we include more people.”
Diversity isn’t necessarily easy, “but when you have a goal in mind, those differences become secondary because now everyone has one goal,” she says.
With just 53 per cent of Victoria’s Vital Signs survey respondents saying they are committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, understanding what that means begins with understanding what equity is, Alene says, sharing an illustration from a teacher.
“Imagine that you have three glasses of water. One is full to the rim, one is half full and one is a quarter full, and I have the jug, which is the resources. I’m not going to pour more water in the glass that is full – it’s already full of resources – but I’m also not going to take from that. Fair enough, they work hard for that,” Alene says. “But those other two glasses, they need more resources, not to get to the rim, but to be able to cover the necessities, to be able to say, ‘This has been a fair treatment.’
“The person who is giving the resources has to be very aware of that, and the people who already have so much should be okay with the person with the resources giving to the other two glasses instead of them, because we all are connected.”
Listen to the full podcast here.
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The Vital Victoria Podcast, hosted by Lucky Budd, highlights people in the Greater Victoria region who are working to create a vibrant, caring community for all.
During the podcast, Budd pulls in statistics from the Vital Signs program, and takes a deeper dive into the meaning of those statistics. Learn more, and subscribe today at victoriafoundation.bc.ca/vital-victoria-podcast